The future will offer a plethora of different opportunities and options. Some will be worthy of a company’s time… others will not. Organizations led by executives who can figure out which is which, faster, and then pivot will thrive. Without an A+ performing executive team, all else is at risk.
Over the past few weeks, we asked several CEOs and heard three constant themes about what they have observed, learned, and how they will navigate through future uncertainties. Three major themes were consistently discussed:
Willingness to Bet on Courage: For years, many CEOs strictly adhered to and prized experiences, intuition and a bias toward action. Today, CEOs and their Boards are learning that isn’t enough to make a difference. While experience and performance track records are still top priorities, the CEOs believe it’s equally essential to seek executives with the courage to challenge and question everything (not be led with assumptions of past truths) in order to improve, reinvigorate, and deliver better now economics with sustainability into the future, whatever it may hold. The CEOs opined that they seek and empower leaders who are not trapped in the past and who can influence decisions flexibly and with conviction.
Bending the Curve by Embracing Unknowns: There are no fail-safes to prepare fully for unknowns. Beyond eyes wide open and preparing for actions unknown, the CEOs recognized that gaining value footholds means concentrating and investing on what can be understood and controlled. They all agreed, the most important controllable attributes are the qualities, breadth, elasticity, and commitment of their executive teams. As Alok Gupta, one of our Partners observed, “CEOs are ready to be more proactive (action vs. words) in rigorously evaluating their executive team’s talents and depth… identifying, developing, and providing breadth of experiences for leaders who exhibit a commitment to figuring out complexities with discipline, clarity, and flexibility. Boards are also taking heightened interest in, and are pressing for, leadership selection as part of governing executive talent depth and succession.
Appreciating that Velocity Determines Whether Speed Wins: CEOs and their Boards seek to avoid the curse of resource drains and missteps brought about by the pace of adjustments. They will assess whether actions undertaken are too radical, too fast, or too distracting for leadership’s execution and, therefore, too costly. Experimentation and innovation are encouraged, but not at the cost or distraction of delivering current performance. CEOs, rightly, are guarding against chasing shiny objects that create unnecessary leadership complexities where priorities become jumbled, contain mixed messages, and confuse the importance of performance benchmarks.
Increase your investment in your most important and controllable asset – your leadership team, its capabilities, and depth.
Proactively assess whether your team is truly superior or just meeting expectations. Prioritize capabilities, acknowledge leadership gaps, and address the manner in which they raise issues and reach mission critical decisions.
Commit to deepen your executive bench. Seek key executives (recruited or promoted) beyond competence metrics, who fully embody candor, curiosity and sensitivity.
Remove the barriers to facilitate and speed up executive collaboration and communication throughout your organization… up, down and sideways.
Act decisively and don’t delay when leadership upgrades or additions are needed.
The CEOs mirrored our view that talent is THE defining factor in winning now. Anything less than quality outcome will be difficult and costly to repair… in dollars, executive time, and opportunities lost.
Written by Joel Koblentz and Alok Gupta
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